BY CHERAMIE SONNIER
“Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life and Times.”
By Rae Katherine Eighmey.
Smithsonian Books, $21.95.
First it was the Toddle House chocolate pie. Now, a reader is looking for the Toddle House’s banana cream pie recipe.
When Larry Clanton read my Jan. 23 column with the recipe for what contributor Rhetta Sellers called a “dead ringer for the Toddle House chocolate pie,” it reminded him of eating at a Toddle House diner in Baton Rouge more than 50 years ago and his favorite dessert there.
“When I came to Baton Rouge in 1957 as an LSU student, I fell in love with the banana cream pie, though the chocolate was not far behind,” he wrote. “As a country boy I could sit and eat a whole one by myself though they weren’t that large. Would you happen to have a recipe … or a ‘dead ringer’ for that one? …You have awaken my taste buds’ memory.”
Can anyone help him out? If you have a recipe that you believe is similar to the Toddle House banana cream pie, please share it by writing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking of foods from a bygone era, with Presidents Day having been observed on Monday, this week seemed like a good time to read Rae Katherine Eighmey’s book “Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life and Times.”
Eighmey, a Midwestern cook and food historian, writes that when she began looking into the everyday life of Lincoln, she found that “known facts about Lincoln’s diet and food habits are about as scanty as the provisions on those pantry shelves.” So, she says, while her book has 55 recipes updated for the modern kitchen, it is not a cookbook but “a culinary exploration of Lincoln’s life.”
She organizes her book as a biography beginning with Lincoln’s childhood in Kentucky and Indiana and going through his presidency. She opens the book with a discussion of corn dodgers and egg corn bread, then moves on to Lincoln’s gingerbread men, Thanksgiving in Lincoln’s Springfield home and his time in the White House.
There’s also a chapter called Journeys of Discovery that deals with Lincoln’s trips by flatboat down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.
Eighmey has taken those scanty known facts about Abraham and Mary Lincoln in the kitchen and written a fascinating book of discovery. The reader is sure to learn new things about Lincoln — for example, he shopped for groceries and helped Mary make dinner for their sons.
Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s food editor. Her email address is email@example.com.
Makes 20 or more servings. Recipe is from “Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life and Times” by Rae Katherine Eighmey, who adapted the recipe from “Lincoln Cake,” American Cookery (The Boston Cooking School Magazine), February and March 1899.
331/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1 tsp. baking soda
11/2 tsps. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated or ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup dried Zante currants
1/2 cup diced candied citron
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
11/2 cups packed brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup brandy
3 1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease and flour a 10- to 12-inch angel food cake pan.
2. Mix 3 cups of the flour, the baking soda and spices and set aside.
3. Mix the raisins, currants, citron and almonds with the remaining 1/2 cup flour and set aside.
4. Cream the butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and mix well. Add one-third of the flour-and-spice mixture, then the milk, the second third of the flour, the brandy, and finally the remaining flour mixture, stirring well after each addition. Stir in the fruit-and-nut mixture.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, filling it about three-quarters full. Bake until a skewer or thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 to 15 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the pan. Remove the outside section of the pan. When the cake has cooled completely, pop it off the center tube. Cut into thin slices and serve.
Tip for success: The recipe makes 8 cups of cake batter. You can bake it in small or larger loaf pans, or even in cupcake tins, adjusting the baking time accordingly.